6 Gourmet Recipes Using Foods You Have Sitting in the Pantry

Many of us rely on boxed meals when we need to pull together a quick and easy dinner. While convenient, these pantry go-to’s — which often include macaroni and cheese, skillet dinners, and rice — can sometimes be a bit bland. Fortunately, you can easily turn your boxed meals into fast and flavorful dinner dishes like fig prosciutto mac and cheese, stuffing burgers, and garden-fresh lasagna with the help of a few additional ingredients. Take your boxed pantry items to a whole new level using these six recipes!

1. Velveeta Shells and Cheese Nacho Bake

nacho bake

Nacho bake | Source: iStock

Epicurious’s recipe enhances your boxed shells and cheese by adding ground beef, taco seasoning, sour cream, cheese, salsa, and tortilla chips. Your family will love this casserole’s cheesy, gooey, and gratifying flavors, and you’ll love how easy it is to make! It yields 6 servings.


  • 1 box Velveeta Shells and Cheese (feel free to use any brand of shells and cheese)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¾ cup salsa
  • ½ cup crushed tortilla chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare shells and cheese according to the box’s directions. While cooking pasta, brown meat; drain meat. Add taco seasoning and water; simmer 5 minutes. Stir sour cream into finished pasta. Spoon half of pasta mix into 8-inch square baking dish; top with meat mixture, half of the shredded cheese, and remaining pasta. Cover. Bake 15 minutes; top with salsa, remaining cheese, and tortilla chips. Bake, uncovered, an additional 5 minutes.

2. Fig Prosciutto Mac and Cheese

Figs and prosciutto

Figs and prosciutto | Source: iStock

Dress up a standard box of macaroni and cheese by including prosciutto and fig. Not only does Prevention’s recipe taste far better than a plain box of cheesy noodles, but the figs also provide you with cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. One serving contains 370 calories, 15 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.


  • 1 box macaroni and cheese
  • 3 tablespoons 1% milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced dried figs, stems removed
  • 3 slices prosciutto, diced
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Directions: Prepare mac and cheese per package directions with milk and butter. Once complete, stir in figs and prosciutto. Transfer to serving bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan.

3. Seasoned Chicken and Rice

Chicken teriyaki, rice, broccoli

Seasoned chicken and rice | Source: iStock

Your boxed rice can be so much more than a simple supper side. Rice-A-Roni’s recipe has you add chicken, broccoli, and cheese to your rice, creating a full-flavored dinner dish that can be ready in less than hour.


  • 1 box of Rice-A-Roni chicken-flavored rice (feel free to use a different brand of boxed rice)
  • pound uncooked, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 2 cups water
  • cup small broccoli florets (optional)
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Directions: In large skillet, sauté rice-vermicelli mix with 2 tablespoons margarine over medium heat until vermicelli is golden-brown, stirring frequently. Slowly stir in 2 cups water, special seasonings, and 1 pound uncooked, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender and water is absorbed. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

4. Stuffing Burgers

Turkey Vegetarian Burger

Stuffing burgers | Source: iStock

Stuffing mix, ground turkey, onions, and seasonings create a savory burger that can be whipped up in 20 minutes. Spark Recipes’ dish yields 4 servings. To add another homemade element to this meal, serve your burgers on Food.com’s easy hamburger buns.


  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup chicken-flavored stuffing mix
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion or about ¼ cup raw chopped onion
  • Salt and pepper, as desired
  • Margarine or cooking spray for browning

Directions: Combine stuffing mix, milk, and onion. Let stand a few minutes until mix is moistened. Add meat, salt, and pepper; mix well. Shape into 8 patties. Melt a little margarine in a nonstick skillet. Cook patties for 5 minutes or so, then flip them over and cook until done. Serve on hamburger buns with favorite condiments.

5. Garden-Fresh Lasagna

ground beef

Ground beef | Source: iStock

Thanks to Hamburger Helper, beef, cheese, spices, and veggies, you can prepare Betty Crocker’s garden-fresh lasagna. This recipe, which yields 5 servings, can conveniently be cooked on the stovetop and only takes 30 minutes to make.


  • 1 pound lean (at least 80%) ground beef
  • 2½ cups hot water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 box Hamburger Helper lasagna
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 small tomato, coarsely chopped (½ cup)
  • 1 small bell pepper, coarsely chopped (½ cup)
  • 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)

Directions: In a 10-inch skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in hot water, milk, uncooked pasta and sauce mix, oregano, and garlic powder. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato, bell pepper, zucchini, and cheese. Cover; simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; uncover. Stir before serving.

6. Easy Taco Bake

Make this easy taco bake using pantry staples

Easy taco bake | Source: iStock

Turn your taco dinner kit into Kraft’s easy taco bake, a zesty, beef-filled casserole that’s bursting with cheese. This easy-to-make recipe takes 45 minutes to prepare and yields 6 servings.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 package soft tortilla taco dinner kit
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook meat with taco seasoning mix as directed on package. Spray 12-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray; cover bottom of dish with 6 tortillas. Sprinkle with ½ cup cheese. Cover with layers of seasoned meat, remaining tortillas, and salsa. Bake 15 minutes or until heated through. Top with remaining cheese; bake 5 minutes or until melted.

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